|The controversial Year of the Dragon stamp design. Photo: js.people.com.cn|
Stamps marking the Chinese Year of the Dragon that went on sale today have sparked debate online over their "ferocious and intimidating image," with their designer denying that they depict a powerful and confident China.
"Pictures don't transfer real meaning as clearly as language, so misunderstandings happen easily… The dragon is a legendary creature. If it is designed to appear lovely and soft, it will not fit the image of a dragon in most Chinese people's minds," Chen Shaohua, the stamp's designer,
Chen said he chose an image portraying dignity, severity and integrity.
After the China Post unveiled the stamp design last month, many Web users said the dragon's ferocious look went against the dragon's traditional cultural meaning in China, where it is a special beast bringing good fortune and power.
Chen said that his design derives from the pattern on "dragon robes" worn by Chinese emperors in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and also refers to the design and color of the famous Nine Dragons Wall in Beijing's Beihai Park.
"Dragons can drive out evil spirits and avoid disasters, so we need a tough image to express this," Chen added.
Feng Shula, China Post's circulation department manager, lauded the design as a perfect combination of history and modernity, the People's Daily reported.
"The colors on the dragon's body celebrate the coming Chinese lunar new year, which will bring power and confidence to our people," Feng said.
However, some Web users said the dragon looked angry and ambitious.
Zhang Yihe, a renowned Chinese writer, wrote on her Sina Weibo microblog Tuesday that she was almost scared to death when she first saw the design. Her microblog entry soon received more than 5,600 comments.
But some people said they liked the design because it looked alive.
"Dragons should be like this, powerful and vigorous. No one will like a mild and soft dragon," Wu Nan, a Beijing resident, said yesterday.
In an online survey of nearly 26,100 people by ifeng.com, 54.9 percent of respondents believed the design accorded with tradition and 51.9 percent accepted the official explanation that the dragon represents China's confidence, but 27.4 percent of respondents said they disliked the design
because of its ferocity.
Despite the controversy, the stamps have already brought good luck for some sellers on Taobao, a shopping website.
The owner of a Taobao shop, who went under the online name of Yijiashoucang, told the Global Times yesterday that he had received a lot of orders for the stamp.
The new set of 20 stamps is priced at 178 yuan ($27.8) at his store, much higher than the set's face value of 24 yuan.